Hill looking beyond Super Bowl as he seeks to join Hayes in bridging Olympic gap – Insidethegames.biz

Posted: February 2, 2020 at 12:47 pm

For most of the players involved in the 54th Super Bowl today the annual challenge for the Lombardi Trophy will represent a high point of their career. But for one player - Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill - a further peak looms beyond Mount Lombardi, namely Mount Olympus.

Earlier this week, as part of the frenzied media build-up to the impending meeting in Miami Gardens of the Chiefs - champions of the American Football Conference - and the San Francisco 49ers, who have topped the National Football Conference, Hill told Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk that he had serious ambitions of seeking a place at this years Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In the sprints, naturally. For this 25-year-old from Lauderhill in Florida has already run a sub-10-second 100 metres.

"Hopefully after this season, if I'm healthy and my mind is still in the right place, I really want to try to qualify for some Olympic teams," he said, adding that he had looked into the process of qualifying for the Games that start in Japan on July 24.

Hills ambitions are tempered with realism.

"The thing is, I weigh like 195 [pounds] right now," he added. "Back in high school, when I ran a 9.9, I was like 175.

So it would be me changing my whole diet that I've been doing to get to where I am now."

Should he be successful in scaling down his frame and scaling up his aspirations, however, Hill will be taking his place among a select and illustrious group of those who have previously bridged the gap between the National Football League (NFL) - including, for some, an appearance in the pinnacle event of the Super Bowl - and the Olympic Games, the pinnacle event in world sport.

The only man so far to have stood atop both Mount Lombardi and Mount Olympus is Bob Hayes, who established himself as the worlds fastest man with a stupendous display at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics before pursuing a highly successful NFL career with Dallas Cowboys, which included winning a Super Bowl ring at the end of the 1971 season.

By the time he got to the Tokyo Games, this native of Jacksonville in Florida was only 21 - and already a record-breaking sprinter.

In 1962, in a meeting at the University of Miami, he equalled the 9.2 world record time for the 100 yards and he was also the first person to break six seconds in the 60 yards with an indoor world record of 5.9sec.

The following year he lowered the 100 yards mark to 9.1, which would stand for 11 years, and also set a world 200m best of 20.5, although the time was never ratified.

He also recorded 20.6 in the 220 yards, running into a wind of eight miles per hour.

Hayes was already on a football scholarship at Florida A&M University and when he was selected to compete for the United States at the Tokyo Games his college coach was unwilling to offer him time to train. So highly regarded was Hayes as a sprinting talent that the United States President at the time, Lyndon B Johnson, interceded on his behalf.

This multi-talented athlete amply re-paid the faith in the Japanese capital after arriving with a record of 48 consecutive victories and no defeats.

The footage of him powering to the line to win the 100m final from lane one - the very worst of draws, given that the cinder track had been churned up on the inside by the previous days 20km race walk - is the stuff of Olympic legend.

Not only was he running through a mire, he was also running in borrowed spikes. It transpired that one of his shoes had been kicked under the bed back in his room at the Athletes' Village when he was playing with some friends and he hadnt realised it until he arrived at the Olympic Stadium.

Had it not been for the fact that Tokyo 1964 was the first Games to employ fully automatic timing for its athletics events, Hayes - who finished two metres clear of the nearest challenger - would have gone down in history as the first man to run the 100m in less than 10 seconds as he was hand-timed by officials with stopwatches at 9.9.

However, the electronic equipment registered his time at 10.06, which was rounded down to 10.00, thus equalling the world record that had been first set by Germanys Armin Hary at Rome 1960.

Hayes was also give an official time of 9.9 in winning his semi-final - how did he get to be given lane one in the final? But this was ruled out for record purposes as the following wind of 5.28 metres per second was well in excess of the allowable limit of 2.0m/s. His time according to the electronic recording was 9.91.

Hayess performance in adding a second Olympic gold in the mens 4x100m relay was arguably superior.

The US, anchored by their individual gold medallist, set a world record officially given as 39.0, and electronically recorded at 39.06, although at the point Hayes got the baton in his hand their chances looked slim as they trailed the French team by five metres.

Hayes revivified their fortunes with one of the most spectacular comeback runs in Olympic history to take the gold medal by a margin of three metres over Poland's Marian Dudziak, setting a new world record in the process.

According to the hand-timing of the US coach, Bob Giegenback, Hayes ran a split of 8.5. Others concurred, and even the slowest official time for his leg was 8.9. Nobody had ever run that fast before. Fifty-one years later Usain Bolt was clocked at 8.65 during the IAAF World Relays.

With that kind of speed, and a powerful build, it was not surprising that Hayes should make a big impact as an American footballer when he was selected as a wide receiver later in the Olympic year by Dallas Cowboys.

In his first two seasons he led the NFL in receiving touchdowns, registering 12 and 13 respectively, and such was his speed that he was credited with prompting a new zone defence system in the League, given that no single opponent could keep up with him.

He played four more years for the Cowboys after the Super Bowl win, finishing his career after a short period with the San Francisco 49ers.

In 2009, seven years after his death, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

While being an Olympic sprint champion provides a significant element of potentiality in terms of going on to become a successful NFL operator, it is no guarantee.

Four years after Tokyo, Hayess compatriot Jim Hines became the first man to win the Olympic 100m title in a sub-10 time as he clocked a world record of 9.95 in the thin air of Mexico, a mark which stood for almost 15 years.

Hines, who at six feet was a couple of inches taller than Hayes, was also signed as a wide receiver, playing for the Miami Dolphins from 1968 to 1969, and for the Chiefs in 1970. He played 10 times for the Dolphins in 1969, being given the nickname Oops with reference to his catching skills, and played once for the Chiefs - his final game.

An earlier US Olympian was a far more convincing convert to the NFL; Ollie Matson, a promising college footballer who won a 400m bronze medal and 4x400m silver medal at the Helsinki 1952 Games before signing up later in the year for the Chicago Cardinals, for whom he played a starring role for several seasons.

Matsons hugely effective NFL career spanned 14 years as he played for the Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles.

Four years after Matsons Olympic appearance, fellow American Glenn Davis won the 400m hurdles title at the Melbourne 1956 Games and retained his title four years later in Rome, as well as earning gold in the 4x400m relay.

He appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated that same year and also began a two-season career as a successful wide receiver in the NFL for the Lions.

Matson was a Pro-Bowl selection on six occasions, but he never got to play in the Super Bowl.

That is an achievement managed by a relatively small list of Olympians.

One such was US sprinter Willie Gault, whose Olympic ambitions of 1980 were frustrated by the boycott of the Moscow Olympics, but who played a part as the US won the first 4x100m relay world title in 1983 in a record time of 37.86.

Gault went on to play NFL football for 11 season, playing wide receiver for the Chicago Bears as they won Super Bowl XX and ending his career on the books of the Los Angeles Raiders.

A man of many parts, Gault also danced with the Chicago Ballet and was an alternate on 1988 US bobsled team.

Strictly speaking, Gault may just have missed out on winter Olympic action. Only one man has combined NFL and Winter Olympic performances is Herschel Walker, who during the course of a football career that saw him play for Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, took part in the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville.

Walker was brakeman in the two-man bobsled, where he and his driver Brian Shimer finished ninth.

Like Gault, he also prodded his toe into ballet. In 1988, while with Cowboys, he danced with the Fort Worth Ballet for a single performance.

James Jett never won the Super Bowl, but he had a successful 10-year career with the Raiders having won an Olympic gold medal at the Seoul 1988 Games, having run in the heats for the US mens 4x100m team.

James Trapp was a reserve for the US mens 4x100m relay team at the Barcelona 1992 Games and a year later won the world indoor 200m title in Toronto.

He subsequently had a 10-year NFL career, picking up a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000.

Had Renaldo Nehemiah been able to run in the Moscow 1980 Games, rather than being sidelined by the US boycott, he would have had a huge chance of winning the 110m hurdles title.

A year later he became the first man to run the event in under 13 seconds, clocking 12.93 at the Zurich Weltklasse meeting.

A year later he signed as a wide receiver with the 49ers, and although he did not play a major role he was a part of their team that won Super Bowl XIX. He was released by the 49ers in 1985 and returned to track competition the following year.

The usual pattern for these adaptable athletes has been to establish themselves in track and field before moving on to NFL. In seeking to reverse that order, Hill is bucking the trend, although he would not be unique.

John Capel, a hugely promising athlete and footballer at collegiate level, was selected by the Bears in the 2001 NFL Draft but was released during training camp. The same thing happened to him the following year when picked up by the Chiefs.

In 2003, Capel - who in 1999 had won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) 200m title and earned sprint relay gold at the World University Games - won the world 200m title in Paris.

Close, but no cigar for Capel. Thus far the only fully fledged NFL player to compete in the summer Olympics is Jahvid Best. He played for the Lions from 2010 until 2013, when he was released after the numerous concussions he had had during his career precluded him from safely continuing.

He then turned to athletics, and in 2016 represented St Lucia, his fathers home country, at the Rio Olympics, running a time of 10.39 in his 100m heat but failing to advance to the semi-finals.

Bob Hayes was the second Olympic gold medallist to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The honour of being the first belonged to Jim Thorpe, Olympic champion at pentathlon and decathlon at the Stockholm 1912 Games, who was inducted, like Hayes, posthumously.

The decision to name Thorpe among the games great and good - taken in 1963, 10 years after his death - was part of a larger reappraisal of his career following the International Olympic Committees (IOC) draconian decision to strip him of his medals for infringing the strict rules on amateurism having been found to have played professional baseball at a lower level in 1910 and 1911.

At the age of 25 he became the first Native American to win a gold medal for the US.

Regarded as one of the most versatile athletes of recent times, he won Olympic titles in the pentathlon and decathlon and also played collegiate and professional American Football as well as professional basketball and baseball.

Thorpe took up baseball in 2013, signing up with the New York Giants, for whom he played in Major League Baseball for six years. He combined that career with playing American football, joining the Canton Bulldogs in 1915 and helping them win three professional championships.

He later played for six teams in the NFL. Indeed, from 1920 to 1921 he was nominally first President of the American Professional Football Association, which became the NFL in 1922.

In 1983, 20 years after his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction and 30 years after his death, the IOC restored his medals to him.

For many observers of sport, Thorpes name still stands pre-eminent in the list of those who have successfully bridged the gap between top level athletics and American Football.

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Hill looking beyond Super Bowl as he seeks to join Hayes in bridging Olympic gap - Insidethegames.biz

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